Hi, I'm Margie Newman. I blog about public relations, social media, careers, productivity and geek stuff.

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Five must-use productivity tools

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Geek bloggers often ask what productivity tools readers can’t live without. Here are mine:

1.iPhone – I don’t really have to explain this one, do I? The iPhone is the wind beneath my itty bitty wings.

2. GooToDo.com – Next to my iPhone, this electronic ToDo list is the tech love of my life. Add and check off a task from any where; forward it an email and it will create a task for you; set reoccurring ToDo’s like “write column” or “pay mortgage” or “blog.” I seriously would lose my mind without it AND it saves paper.

3. PageOnce.com – PageOnce bills itself as your Personal Productivity Assistant. It ain’t lie’n. PageOnce is a secure, one stop shop for all of your online financial, travel, utility and social accounts. You can even put the PageOnce app on your iPhone (and Blackberry, if you must) for instant, password protected access to all of your accounts.

4. Google Reader – I’ve got everything from client Google Alerts to local news to Perez Hilton in my Google Reader. I can get all of my news, blogs, Facebook updates, etc all in one place. Can’t beat it.

5. Social Networking Sites – Believe it or not, I get a great deal of research done via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And since my Twitter account updates my Facebook status, I look a lot more engaged in that social networking tool than I actually am.  Call them time wasters if you like. I can honestly say these communication tools make me better at my job.

What are your top five?

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Five ways to get, stay organized in 2012

I adore the first few weeks of January. That magical time when my blog traffic spikes with Googling visitors newly resolved to “get organized” in the new year. That makes me so happy. You know how I love talking to-do lists, productivity and Moleskine.  So, without further ado, here are my top tips to help you get and stay organized in 2012:

Keep one to-do list: you only have one brain, which frets over everything from that memo you need to write, to the dentist appointment you keep forgetting to make and the day care check you that OMG-YOU-MUST-MAIL-TODAY. Your brain doesn’t keep separate “work” and “personal” to-do lists, so why do you? Consolidate all of those calendars, post-its, napkins and lists into ONE. Then, prioritize the lot. This works; trust me. My to-do list of choice is Good To Do. That said, you may be like my husband and find a paper to-do list more productive. Whatever floats your boat. Just use ONE.

Clear your inbox(es): this one always gets me the crazy-eye. But I’m serious. Your inbox is not a filing cabinet; it is not a to-do list. Watch this video or read this book. Then, take a deep breath and start taking action, delegating, filing or deleting! This one is super-empowering, though it does take a while if your inbox has 5,500 emails in it. One great way to keep the clutter from returning is to unsubscribe from all that junk email you get each day; feels so good!

Write it down: you know how you wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out over something you forgot to do that day? Some email you forgot to send? The dog’s medication you forgot to give him? Keep a notebook beside your bed. When you wake up fretting, write it down. Then, go back to sleep. You can’t do anything about it at 3:35 a.m. anyway–without looking like a crazy person. I keep a notebook in my purse, too. And for a while, when I was really stressed with work and personal stuff, I kept a notebook by the shower! Hey, we do what we need to do. When you wake up/get back to your desk/dry off, you’ll then transfer those random thoughts and to-dos to your ONE LIST. See how this works!

Create a file system: you don’t have to go 100% David Allen with your files, but you do need a system for work and home. I use colored file folders and keep two cabinets: one in my office; one in my home closet. Every project and meaningful task gets a folder. This keeps my desk clear of clutter, while enabling me to hoard relevant notes, business cards plans, receipts, agendas, etc. When the project/task is done, the folder gets filed away.

Use an RSS reader: point all those blogs, news sites, job postings, friend’s baby pictures, critics’ Tweets, Google Alerts and time wasters to ONE PLACE. I use Google Reader. But there are many others out there. This way, my inbox is free of “alert” clutter and I don’t have to spend time surfing the Internet to get caught up on news, tech, gossip and flickr feeds. This technique may or may not work for you. Some folks find an RSS reader more trouble than it’s worth, but it works for me!

What organizational tools do you swear by? Share your suggestions in the comments!

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3 resume mistakes to avoid

I read a lot of resumes. For the most part, they attempt to detail the career path of smart, well-educated young professionals on the hunt for their next great challenge. Yet, most of these resumes scream mediocrity and naiveté. Maybe it’s because most folks learn how to craft a thoughtful resume in college; maybe it’s because they are trying so hard to be a team player.

Whatever the reason, Young and Talented People of Earth, please stop making these three resume mistakes:

  1. Leading with your education and grade point average: Oh, I know this stings; you’ve worked so hard to earn that masters degree. But as much as you love your alma mater, your major/minor, GPA and campus activities offer an employer zero indication as to how qualified you are for an actual job. We want to see your real life work experience. If you’re leading with four paragraphs about education, we’re assuming it is because you don’t have much relevant employment to talk about. There are of course, exceptions to this rule: if you are a Ph.D. applying for a fabulously wonky research position at a well-respected think tank, you have our permission to lead with education. If not, you should move education down by “Special Skills” and “References Available Upon Request.”
  2. Cutting and pasting your title and job description: I don’t know anyone whose day-to-day responsibilities mirror her job description. You do so much more; am I right? Why so many of you choose not to communicate your gig beyond your title is beyond me. It’s also the first sign of someone whose self-esteem is keeping them from achieving greatness in the workplace. Take the time to thoughtfully craft the description of your contributions, successes and skills. Read More…
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Finding your Balance | Her Nashville September Issue

For all of the entertainment, information access, and cross-country connections technology affords us, it can really do a number on your soul and psyche. In the September issue of Her Nashville magazine, I offer up three ways to keep technology from re-wiring our brains and zapping our productivity. A teaser:

Force your focus:”While new media multitasking is great, science studies show it may not always be best for our brains. In June, The New York Times reported that scientists have discovered that online multitasking may lead to fractured thinking and lack of focus when offline.”

Stop stalking: “The inherent compare and contrast — and the tendency to dwell on it — that accompanies constantly reading about others’ lives isn’t healthy for you, and it isn’t fair to your friends.”

Leave a morsel of mystery: “Lean on your actual friends and family for help, attention, advice, and encouragement. Meanwhile, share just enough online to keep virtual friends updated, making sure not to upload your entire diary.”

Read the full column here!

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Creating your personal boilerplate

When someone asks you, “what do you do?” What do you say? If you’re like many folks, you reply with your title and place of employment. And you know how I feel about that: communicating your title is not really answering the question and certainly doesn’t promote your talents. It’s time to create your personal boilerplate; your own thirty-second elevator speech; a verbal “About Me” that is sincere, to-the-point and purposeful.

This is an exercise in consistently and confidently communicating your own skills, talents and line of work. Without apology! Without shame! Even if you have a title that you view as demeaning or wrong! This is especially important if you are a jack-of-all-trades and it’s hard for you to explain what you do!

I’ll go first. When someone asks me, “What do you do,” I say something like:

I manage public relations at a national policy shop in D.C.—helping very smart and often long-winded folks succinctly and confidently communicate with media and policy makers. I’m also a technology and productivity columnist, and a go-to gal for the social media curious. And I blog about PR and geek stuff on my personal blog, FlackRabbit.com.

Now, it’s your turn. Warning: it is harder than it looks. The good news: you don’t have to memorize it; it can in should be organic. And it may change according to your audience.

When creating your personal boilerplate, try to think about the following:

What do you do? Notice that I did not ask what your title is. Explain to me what you do in a way that I’ll likely understand, even if I don’t know anything about your line of work. For instance, most folks know what public relations is, but not many folks understand what it means. That’s why I include some detail to nudge them in the right direction. Additionally, you should include skills and interests that make you, you. I don’t write a technology column or pen a blog as a part of my day job, but both are a relevant part of my professional work and skill set, so I include them in “what I do.” Read More…

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Four ways to manage up without getting the smack-down

I frequently hear from in-house PR pros that their talents are underutilized at work. The truth is that unless your manager is or once was a communications professional, she probably doesn’t actually know how to best use your skill set, let alone take your career to the next level. Don’t take it personally; one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. Rather than be sad about it, you should view this as an opportunity to “manage up.”

The most successful PR folks I know have paved their own career path by respectfully teaching their boss, boss’ boss and team members how to make the most of a communicator’s talents. Here’s how:

Show up with your own agenda, get buy-in; then, get to work: you are a professional communicator, which means not an hour goes by without you thinking about something creative, strategic or worth investigating. Take the time to map out those thoughts and put them on paper. Be specific about your goal, tactics, timeline and deliverables. Then, schedule a meeting with your manager and present your plan. I’ll bet you a latte that memo gets the greenlight. More importantly, you’ve proven you are proactive and thoughtful. And if your ideas are successful, you’ll make your boss look like a rock star–and she didn’t have to lift a finger. That means the next time you present a memo, she’s even more likely to approve it.

Take care of your boss(es): managing up is only successful when your manager trusts you. Your actions must prove that you are always acting in her/the company’s best interest. It’s often the little things, like reminding her of deadlines and helping her avoid office drama, that will assure her you’re not trying to take her job; you are simply striving to be fantastic at your own. I can’t stress this one enough. If your managing up is seen as an attempt at mutiny or to disable company hierarchy, you will fail. Read More…

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Why you should love metrics and memos

I could actually hear your collective eye roll. I’m sure there are times when you’d rather be forced to sit through the Transformers sequel again than talk about metrics. And Lord knows you hate writing memos. But humor me and read these three reasons why you should learn to embrace both:

1. Measuring things helps you prove your worth: There’s no easy way to say this: new media offers communications professionals the opportunity to document, track and measure just about every aspect of our productivity and if you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re crazy. Metrics are not just for corporations and/or folks who like to avoid doing things unless they are measurable. Metrics give you proof that your ideas, risks and strategies work. That people are moved by/take action because of what you are doing. And that, my friends, makes you an in-demand pro. Flacks who measure things are getting hired left and right because they can prove they know what they’re talking about. Can you?

2. Writing things down shows you’re a strategist: Memos are a total buzz-kill after your brainstorming session. I get it. But don’t let taking a moment to put your FABULOUS/CRAZY/INNOVATIVE idea down on paper get you down. I guarantee that when you write it down in a clear, thoughtful way, you’ll actually think of more fabulous/crazy/innovative ideas. Writing stuff down also helps you troubleshoot your obstacles, as well as think through how the heck you’re going to sell this idea to your boss, client or board. Most importantly, a well-written memo shows you have the attention span to be strategic. Always a good quality–but not always present–in a PR pro. Read More…

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